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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Love & OM: Loneliness During COVID-19

Intimacy During COVID (1:4)

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Welcome to our weekly column

Transcontinental Times is venturing into new territory with this piece. We are beginning a cutting-edge column that will be published every week with a focus on relationships. This column is a co-written endeavor between two dear friends separated by 30 years and about 12 thousand kilometres. However, what brings us together is our passion for exploring the very thing that brings us all together: intimate relationship. The author Onkar Mishra (AKA “OM”) has called co-author Lisa “L” since we met, so the title of our series will be called Love & OM.

Each month, we will take a general topic and explore it from 4 different viewpoints. For the month of September, we invite you to join us as we explore the complex terrain of intimacy during COVID.

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To kick off this series, we will be exploring love and the emotional toll of being alone while under mandatory lockdowns in the US and India.

Lockdown isolation

No matter where you are from, the pandemic hit us all like a hurricane, overturning everything we thought was stable about our lives. Before anyone realized what was happening, the world’s population found itself returning from their shared apartments in bustling urban centers to their village homes, as was the case in India or being left behind, alone. In the US, roommates suddenly looked at each other and wondered if they had made a wise choice to co-habitate or found themselves living alone and socially isolated, unable to connect with friends.

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A 27-year-old financial consultant from Mumbai describes the lockdown as the most testing time in her personal life. Living alone for the first time, she has felt the impact on her professional life as she is unable to focus on her work. She is missing the human connections she had from both roommates, social outings, and of course being separated from her family.

For 67-year-old Chris Bergman of Penn Yan, New York, COVID-19 brought a halt to visiting her partner of 16 years, who has been in long term care treatment for dementia in Canada for 4 years. Unable to visit him since 7 March, she felt deeply upset that she “couldn’t be there to sit with him, feed him his lunch and interact with the other residents,” she told us in an interview. It’s the unexpected things that weigh the heaviest on her. “That day before I left, I decorated his room for St Patrick’s Day. I decorated his room for every holiday and season. I suppose those decorations are still up which bothers me. I suppose I could just look at it that if I wait long enough it will be St Patrick’s Day again.”

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Communication between Chris and her partner Norm have had to shift to FaceTime. “He really only communicates via expressions and an occasional word. But he responds to me. I take time ahead of the call to think of stories of the things we did. Facebook memories is helpful for that. Lately I have been singing him songs that we used to listen and sing together; much to the chagrin of Norm and the staff.”

She added, “I leave the conversation with something that will make him feel good. I read that with dementia a person may not remember what we talked about but the good feeling lasts. He is still there inside so I try each week to find the key to unlock him. He is the love of my life and my soul mate. He is the only person I have ever been with that never asked me to change. He had once told me that he fell in love with me because of who I am.  I am grateful he is in my life even if it is not the journey we would have chosen.”

Many people entered the COVID-19 lockdowns single and the desire to connect arose for the first time. A 24-year-old software developer from Bangaluru confesses to be engaged in online chats with multiple partner prospects. He told us that he has let his guard down and is actively looking for companionship online. “I used to be an introvert, but now I decided to let go of my inhibitions. Lockdown has invoked a feeling of desperation within me. I have also realized that right now almost everyone is looking for a partner, so the conversations flow more smoothly than before.”

Seeking Connection

Regardless of the demographic, the feelings resonate. Discussions with old friends have resumed. Embers from last summer’s romance are being rekindled. Ex boyfriends and girlfriends are healing old wounds and trying again. Uncertainty and inhibitions are being set aside as people feel a loneliness prompting them to great lengths to connect. What is certain? Humans need each other and never before, forced into isolation, have they been more aware of it.

Article co-written by: Lisa Carley Hotaling


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